Abu Dhabi: A total of 11 new sub-Saharan African nations have signed up for Special Olympics programmes and will be participating in the World Games here in March 2019.

The Special Olympics programmes have been newly established in Burundi, Cape Verde, Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Chad and South Sudan.

Heads of Department (HODs) from countries across the Middle East and North Africa region — including the UAE, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Morocco — were in attendance at a three-day seminar alongside representatives from further afield such as China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Great Britain, USA, Canada and Zimbabwe among others.

The seminar kicked off on Monday and featured briefings on Emirati culture and hospitality, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the World Games and Special Olympics International (SOI).

Over 100 HODs were given an overview of the upcoming World Games, due to take place from March 14 to 21, the Host Town Programme, which is a Special Olympics International initiative that pairs delegations with local families to allow them to experience local culture ahead of the Games, details and tours of some of the venues the Games will be held in.

Khalfan Al Mazroui, Managing Director at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “It has been an inspiring and insightful experience to meet over 100 HODs due to participate in the World Games.

As the UAE prepares to host the most unified Games in the history of Special Olympics, the LOC is committed to ensuring that every single delegation due to participate in the Games is thoroughly prepared and properly welcomed to the UAE.

“With less than five months to go, we are in the crucial stages of preparations and look forward to not only showcasing Abu Dhabi as a location for world-class events, but also showcasing its values of unity, tolerance and inclusion to the world.”

HODs will be provided with key information on programmes such as Healthy Athletes, the world’s biggest health programme for people with intellectual disabilities, which offers every single athlete participating in the Games free health screenings, and venue tours of seven of the Games venues.

Over 7,500 athletes from more than 176 nations are gearing up to participate in what will be the world’s biggest sports and humanitarian event in 2019 and the most unified Games in the 50-year history of Special Olympics.